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Claims Against an Estate

By February 1, 2021June 26th, 2024No Comments


Claims Against an Estate


In relation to Estates, Beneficiaries are frequently reluctant to take action and bring any claim against the estate as often the Executor would be well known to them, if not a Family member.

It is important however that beneficiaries keep in mind the timelines involved in bringing a claim to ensure they are not statute barred.


In the case of Caitriona Cunniffe v. Michael Cunniffe and Martina Whyte Justice Meenan summarised the basis on which the claims being brought by the Plaintiff were statute barred.


The case involved the estate of Patrick Cunniffe who had died without making a will in 1987. He had four children, the Plaintiff Caitriona Cunniffe being the only one who was a minor at the date of his death. The siblings agreed that Martina Whyte (Caitriona’s Sister) would administer the estate and they all agreed that their Brother Michael would continue to run the farm which he had done for many years prior to their Father’s death. They also agreed that the assets of the farm would be transferred to him and an agreement was signed where the other Siblings agreed to disclaim their interest in their Father’s estate in consideration of Michael agreeing to pay them each £30,000.00.


Caitriona Cunniffe did not take proceedings against the estate until May 2016. Her claims included that misrepresentations had been made to her. It was found in relation to the claim of misrepresentation that she was statute barred as issues had arisen with her Brother in 2003/ 2004 and therefore she was deemed to be aware of the difficulties at that time and had 6 years within which to bring her claim and as it was now 2016 she was statute barred.


Caitriona Cunniffe’s claim against her Sister Martina as the administrator of the estate was also found to be statute barred as once the administration had taken place she had 6 years after that time to bring a claim which she had failed to do. The time starts to run on the timeframe once the administrator is able to deal with the assets which would have been once the Grant of Administration issued to Martina Whyte.


Caitriona Cunniffe had also brought a claim for personal injury which should have been taken within two years and therefore again she was statute barred.


The only option left for Caitriona Cunniffe related to her claim under the provisions of section 71 of the Statute of Limitations Act 1957 relating to fraud. The High Court directed that a hearing take place as to whether she may be entitled to rely on those provisions on the basis that the actions of the defendant were fraudulent. In an action such as that the period she would have to take a claim would not begin to run until she discovered or could reasonably have discovered the fraud.


As can be seen from the above case it is extremely important for a beneficiary considering an action against an estate  to keep these timelines to the forefront of their minds to ensure they are not statute barred.


If you have any queries or need advice in this area please contact us on 01-2960666 or